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West Virginia editorial roundup

April 11, 2019

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

April 8:

The Intelligencer on ex-Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry reporting to federal prison:

Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has begun seeing the other side of the criminal justice system. Last Friday, he reported to a federal prison in South Carolina, where he began serving a two-year sentence for misdeeds committed while in office.

Loughry was sentenced earlier this year, after being found guilty of a menu of wrongdoing. He has appealed his case.

Since the scandal that took Loughry and another justice, Menis Ketchum, down last year, much has changed about our state’s highest court. Ketchum resigned, then pleaded guilty to using a state card and gasoline credit card for personal trips. Then, a third justice, Robin Davis, resigned as legislators were looking into her lavish spending practices. She was not charged with crimes.

The five-member court, then, has just two members who were sitting a year ago.

All five justices have pledged to make reforms intended to reduce the possibility of criminal behavior and control spending. It is clear they are serious and committed to rebuilding the trust West Virginians must have in our court system.

Word that Loughry has begun serving his prison sentence opens something of a new chapter in the court’s history.

Sadly, it also is a reminder that power sometimes does corrupt — and that ongoing scrutiny of government officials is a necessity here in the Mountain State.

Online: www.theintelligencer.net

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April 7

The Journal on efforts by West Virginia’s secretary of state to inform young voters to check facts before spreading information online:

On a recent visit to the Eastern Panhandle, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner brought with him an interesting packet of information. The packet included images depicting posts made on social media as part of the disinformation campaign used against America — and its democracy.

Warner hopes to use such material to help inform young voters about the dangers of disinformation spread online.

We support Warner’s efforts — and we feel adults could also use some education in this regard.

Those who work to spread disinformation do so by exploiting divisions and distrust in our country. As America works through one of the most divisive and polarizing times in recent history, we all have a responsibility — to ourselves, to the country and to democracy — to fact-check what we see, especially before sharing it or some other way communicating it to others.

Russia may have ignited the flames of division and distrust — but we don’t need anyone’s help to stoke them.

Americans on both sides of the aisle can help bring this to an end by using critical thinking skills, by questioning what they see — and most importantly, by keeping our emotions in check.

Those images we see are meant to upset us and play on our emotions.

During his visit to The Journal, Warner said his office is working to take the online political disinformation and bring it to high schools throughout West Virginia in order to heighten awareness.

“With the (Robert) Mueller report, everyone’s talking about Russian meddling. There was no collusion, but they are still trying to meddle.”

Our patriotic duty, then, should be to make that task more difficult.

Warner said the program is currently being evaluated by the West Virginia Board of Education and by the federal Department of Homeland Security. Later this summer, he said it will be evaluated for release in schools nationally.

The information from DHS includes various memes, posts, events and pictures posted on social media by Russian accounts.

DHS program information indicates that the Internet Research Agency — a Russian company based in St. Petersburg engaged in online influence operations — allegedly used a $1 million per month budget to conduct cyber operations and it utilized various social media platforms to target millions of Americans between 2012 and 2017.

According to a Journal article published at the end of March, Warner’s program includes specific examples of disinformation proven to be from Russian IRA accounts. One post, Warner explained, tried to deter hunters in North Dakota from voting. The Facebook post claimed that voters would lose their hunting licenses in other states if they voted in the election.

In another example, Warner said the IRA arranged two events on Nov. 12, 2016: one event was advertised as an anti-Donald Trump “Not My President” rally; the second event was a pro-Trump rally urging attendees to “show support for president elect Donald Trump.” Warner said both events were planned in New York City to cause conflict and tension.

″(The IRA and other perpetrators) are trying to mess with our heads,” Warner told The Journal. “They’re not trying to change votes. They can’t change our votes (due to internet security measures), but they can try to get inside the voter’s minds to change voter thoughts.”

Simply put, we cannot let them.

Information from DHS said 5,956 inciting Instagram posts were created by Russian accounts in 2017, up from 2,611 in 2016. Russian accounts generate tweets, Facebook posts, videos and other forms of media as well.

It is important for us to be vigilant. Check the facts before disseminating information.

″(The posts) are trying to spread distrust in the government,” Warner said. “And if we lose faith in the government and stop voting, then where are we as a democracy?”

That’s a question for which we hope there is never an answer.

Online: www.journal-news.net

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April 5

The Charleston Gazette on a 12-year-old scheduled commencement speaker at West Virginia University:

The West Virginia University Reed College of Media will have the youngest person in school history — possibly U.S. history — deliver it’s commencement address on May 10.

Twelve-year-old dynamo Hilde Kate Lysiak, who has been reporting on crime for her website and self-published newspaper — Orange Street News — since she was 9, will take to the podium in Morgantown next month to address the graduating class.

This is an inspiring story, but don’t tell Lysiak it’s “cute.” This kid isn’t someone you’d see on “America’s Got Talent” making basketball shots from incredible distances. She’s a serious journalist, mainly covering crime. She’s been drawing eyes in journalistic circles for years. Her coverage of a homicide in her hometown in Pennsylvania about three years ago garnered attention across the country. She was in the headlines again more recently after refusing to stop filming a police chief in Arizona while doing an investigative piece.

WVU media school dean Maryanne Reed told The Washington Post she’s been following Lysiak for a while and thought she’d make a great commencement speaker.

“It’s really about bringing someone to inspire,” Reed told The Post, “who’s different, who’s inspirational and a speaker our students will always remember.”

The graduating students — and journalists everywhere, really — shouldn’t see this as evidence that a kid could do their job. Lysiak, who is getting ready to launch a series of children’s novels and a TV show, is incredibly gifted and hard-nosed. She also has the help (although The Post reports it’s mostly hands off) of her father, who is an author and former New York Daily News reporter.

What journalists and future journalists should see is affirmation that the craft won’t be stamped out by politicians who demonize the media, public officials who stonewall or hostile audiences who try to intimidate.

West Virginia has had its own little wonders in the news industry, like Frannie Salisbury, who, in 2010, was chosen to report for Time Kids Magazine when she was 10, and was a longtime writer for Flipside at the Gazette-Mail. There’s also Christian Deiss, who has been covering sports for the Putnam Review and the Gazette-Mail Metro section since he was in elementary school.

What all of these kids show is that there are future generations out there who are passionate about the news, and print news in particular. That should give everyone some hope about the future of this industry.

Online: www.wvgazettemail.com